What you need to know about vaulting

October 6, 2010

The sport of vaulting is a competitive discipline where both gymnastic and dance elements are combined and performed to music on a cantering horse.


The 2006 gold medal winning German team in the freestyle final at Aachen. © Kit Houghton/FEI

It requires a harmonious relationship with the horse and outstanding physical condition from the vaulter; these two elements are imperative if a display of strength, co-ordination, rhythm and balance is to be achieved.

As an FEI recognized discipline since 1983, vaulters compete regionally, nationally and worldwide as individuals, pairs - called pas-de-deux - and teams.

This variety of events creates an engaging competition for spectators as they watch athletes of all ages perform breathtaking routines that include artistic mounts and dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on the horse, carrying or lifting another vaulter, kneeling and standing exercises.

All vaulting competitions are held over two rounds composed of compulsory and freestyle tests.

During compulsory tests vaulters must perform seven designated exercises that are scored on criteria on a scale from 1 to 10. Freestyle tests, performed to music, allow vaulters the artistic freedom of building both dynamic and static exercises to create an artistic performance. Each vaulter, pair or team creates their own routine to music of their choice.

Judging is based on technique, form, difficulty, balance, security and consideration of the horse.

Months are spent planning, designing and making the intricate costumes that vaulters wear for their compulsory, technical and freestyle tests. Careful consideration is taken to adhere to the FEI rules for competition attire and to make sure that it ties in with the overall theme of the vaulters music. The FEI rules state that, "dress must be form-fitting and all articles of clothing, or parts thereof, must remain attached to the vaulter's body at all times. Trousers must be secured to the foot and skirts may only be worn over tights or leggings."

Today, horse, longeur and vaulter are considered a competitive unit and the performance of each is reflected in the final score. A vaulter's most important teammate, the horse, must be a consummate athlete with good character, temperament and balance being essential as 20% of the overall score comes from his way of going.

The horse is guided on a longe line by a longeur, standing on the ground, who ensures that a steady, true, canter is maintained on a circle with a minimum diameter of 15m while the vaulter performs.

The Vaulting Individual Male/Female Freestyle on Saturday, October 9 in the Indoor Arena has been sold out since late last month.